High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Longs Peak Project (March) -- Flying Dutchman

March 3rd—Ascended via Flying Dutchman to The Beaver to Clark’s Arrow, Descended via The North Face with Peter Bakwin

Our original plan was to ascend via the Flying BeaverTraverse that Bill Wright and Charlie Nuttleman used during their May ascent in 2015, but we ended up deviating from that plan. 

We started out the day from our usual meeting spot—The Bus Stop. On the drive up to the Longs Peak Trailhead we could feel the wind whipping the car around pretty good, which let us know that we might be in for a long day. Fortunately, the winds were fairly tame at first. The approach hike to Chasm Junction went by fairly fast. While traversing to below Chasm Lake we had to get out our axes due to unbroken snow. This was my first time walking across Chasm Lake when it’s solid ice. Peter and I both were in favor of hugging the shore of the lake just in case. We reached the base of the Flying Dutchman in 2:18 and decided to stop here to put on more clothes, crampons, and get in some calories. 
Frozen Chasm Lake
Snow conditions on the Dutchman were actually pretty good. Peter has a lot more experience/confidence than me on snow so he just stuck his front points in and cruised up the snow. I’m much more timid in the snow since I’ve done minimal snow climbing. So, I took forever to ascend while kicking steps in the entire way. Eventually, we reached the crux section of the FD, which was mixed rock and shitty, thin ice/snow. We decided to rope up here. If the ice would have been good or the rock dry we would have just soloed up it, but with conditions looking less than ideal and a rope in our bag we opted for a protected climb. 

Peter built an anchor that was protected from rock fall and I got on the sharp end. I’ve never climbed ice. I’ve never climbed in crampons on rock or ice. I’ve never used ice tools. So, this was an interesting experience to say the least. Getting out of the snow and onto the rock at the base of the crux was somewhat difficult since all of the snow and ice kept collapsing underneath me. I eventually figured it out and found a place to shove a cam on the climber’s left side of the gully. I carefully shimmied up little-by-little using an ice tool in my right hand and keeping my left hand free to grab features/cracks on the left wall. Getting purchase with my front points was difficult since the ice was so thin. Everything I touched with my crampons shattered. I managed to get in three solid pieces of pro within the first 15-20 feet of this mixed climbing section and then continued on another 30’ish feet without another piece of pro. For the most part, I was sticking my ice tool in shitty rubble (rocks, dirt, grass) somewhat held together by snow and ice. So, I dislodged several small rocks and sent them down the snow field towards Peter. During this crux section I only really got two good sticks with the ax and two with my front points. I eventually reached some webbing and used this as an anchor to bring up Peter. First, I had to spend 5+ minutes thawing out my hands that were frozen solid. 

With my first ice climbing experience out of the way and Peter up the crux section we took off our crampons and made our way up to The Beaver to check out the rappel into The Notch. Winds were howling through The Notch. We weren’t 100% certain that our rope would get us to the ground and the wind was blowing our rope horizontally. So, we couldn’t get a visual of the rope ends touching. Neither of us really was thrilled with the possibility of having to jug back up the rope in the event that the ends didn’t hit the ground. So, after a little talk we decided to bail on the rappel/Stepladder and finish our ascent via Clark’s Arrow. 

The rest of the ascent seemed to take every bit of energy I had. I’m not sure if being gripped during the FD crux took everything out of me mentally and physically or what, but it was a slog to the top. We summited in about 8:10, ugh…
Peter gearing up for the Flying Dutchman
Fortunately, we’ve descended the North Face in winter several times now and were able to cruise down to the eyebolts, quickly rappel, and be on our way. I coiled the rope around my neck and kept it there until we reached the end of the snow and could take off our crampons. This eliminated an extra stop. We stowed the rope, harnesses, and crampons then quickly began our hike back to the parking lot. We eventually had to stop one more time to shed a bunch of layers so that we could push the pace without sweating our asses off. 

The entire descent took around three hours, which made this our longest ascent so far at 11 hours 10 minutes. We managed to make it to the car before dark (just barely), but we were both pretty exhausted at the end of the day.